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A Cooking Challenge

by Meghann on November 3, 2011

Hello from the 2011 Dole Health Summit!

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We are in BEAUTIFUL Westlake Village, California for 48 hours of food, health, and fun. Love it! :)

My adventure to the land of Dole began this afternoon when the beautiful Monica picked me up on her way north.

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Monica is also attending the summit this week and freaking rocks for going a little out of her way to pick me up. It really worked out perfectly since the hour drive north really gave us a chance to play catch up. I’m pretty sure we didn’t stop chatting the entire trip!

Wait. That’s a lie. We took a mini break to try the toffee I picked up from the farmer’s market today as a thank you gift.

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Sweet toffee heaven. The toffee was great straight up, but I bet would be even better mixed in a little ice cream. ;)

We made it to the hotel with just a few minutes to spare before the opening cocktail party began. I sipped on a glass of red wine while nibbling on appetizers and chatting with fellow bloggers and Dole representatives.

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Then the fun began. ;)

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The 9 bloggers were split into three groups of three for an ‘ironchef’ challenge. Each group was provided a basket with two items that had to be incorporated into an assigned meal course.

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We were assigned the dessert portion and were required to incorporate Dole Frozen Berries and lemon in our dish.

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Thus ‘Team Dessert’ was formed!

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My partners in crime: Leah (@BookieBoo), Sandy (@APSandy), and Ben from Dole (taking the photo).   

We had full reign of the kitchen and a plethora of various baking items and fresh vegetables/fruit to incorporate as we saw fit. Sounds like my idea of a party. ;) After a few minutes of brainstorming we knew exactly what we wanted to do – a fruit crisp.

Leah grabbed the oats, brown sugar, flour, and butter and got to work on the topping.

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Our secret ingredient in the topping? Mushroom Powder! It’s flavorless when added to baked goods, but naturally adds a healthy dose of vitamin D to any dish.

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I took over the fruit portion with a base of Dole frozen raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries mixed with some corn starch, lemon juice, and sugar.

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The oat topping was layered on top of the fruit and went in the oven for 20 minutes of crisping.

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While the crisp baked, I got a peek at some of the other creations the other bloggers were coming up with. The kitchen smelled amazing and everything looked delicious. There was lots of sampling of other dishes while everyone finished up.

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Ding! Our crisp was ready!

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We all tried a bite of the crisp fresh out of the oven and gave it two thumbs up. We didn’t have enough time to let it sit and thicken up, but thought the taste would take us through the judging,

We plated a serving for judging and topped it with two scoops of frozen yogurt and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

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The judging part was a lot more fun than what I’ve seen on Ironchef. Each team presented their dish to our team of judges (two chefs and a Dole rep) in a very relaxed fashion, We all listened as the judges made comments expressing their opinions on the flavors and creativity behind each dish.

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The judges were asked to pick a winner between our crisp, a goat cheese and fig salad, and a plate of roasted cauliflower and grilled pineapple with berry sauce.

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After judging was complete and a winner was chosen (three cheers for team side dish!), we sat down to a thick asparagus soup.

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The main meal was a buffet of several fall themed dishes that showcased Dole products. I sort of got lost in the descriptions when she was reviewing them. All I needed to hear was brussels sprouts, fennel salad, figs, and scallops and I knew it would all be good.

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I grabbed a little bit of everything on my plate, but the standout dish was the cheesy cauliflower. I loved that it had a cheesy mac and cheese feel without being overly cheesy or feeling heavy. It was perfect.

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If we weren’t ready to bust out of our pants yet, a dessert place with pumpkin pie cheesecake and autumn fruit crisp was place in front of us.

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I really enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake with the ginger snap crust. it gave me a little inspiration to try making my own ginger snap crust this coming holiday season. ;)

The whole challenge was a fun ice breaker event that really allowed us to get to know each other. Now that we’re all friends, the real fun begins tomorrow.

Good Night!

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